This week’s guest post is from my cousin Sean Mendis.
The story will unfold in three parts- here is the final part.
Anyway, the Bedfordshire countryside looked far better from over the dope and linen covered half wing of this vintage aeroplane and I imagined myself flying to Paris where a champagne and caviar dinner by the banks of the Seine awaited me. After all, this is the only way to fly to France, what a thrilling prospect. After twenty minutes, the familiar grass strip of Old Warden came into view as the pilot set a landing course. At about 800 feet or so he yanked up the handbrake lever to full, releasing the almost redundant flaps. He throttled back and the engine note receded to barely a whisper and then we glided over the perimeter hedge and touched down smoothly on the all grass aerodrome that was Old warden.
The display was good, and we were expecting to see the ‘Edwardians’ take to the air. This was a name given to vintage aircraft up to the end of the WW1. The collection included a Bleriot, and a Blackburn monoplane amongst several others. These had 3 cylinder Anzani engines whose horsepower was about as much as the HP49 that we’d just started. Consequently, they were only risked in fair weather conditions, and then only in a short hop up and down the runway. It might be said that the mere flapping of a butterfly may cause grave concern for the pilot and so we all held our breath, and other less pleasing eructations, lest we unseated the occupant. Today the windsock was mostly horizontal and regrettably these aeroplanes did not take part. However, we did have the early warbirds, including the “Brisfit” which always impressed. The ‘balloon run’ and the ‘limbo dance’ which followed also provided some entertainment, owing to the potential for low level mishap; nothing too dangerous or massively life threatening I would hasten to add, but perhaps just the odd busted propeller and a shattered collarbone – a thoroughly gentlemanly injury to relay to the grandchildren at a later time.
After the Edwardians we settled down on the grass for half time corned beef sandwiches, cherry beer and a splendid bottle of Rioja. This could have been something out of an Enid Blyton novel – ‘Three go mad at Biggleswade’ perhaps? The Rioja proved the perfect accompaniment to the throbbing beat of a meaty Merlin as a Spitfire and Sea Hurricane tore up the strip.
The Sabre jet display was the last of the delights and we decided to head homewards soon after. The journey back was uneventful save for one dramatic lapse in concentration that Sean made at the wheel of the 730. As if drawn by magnetic attraction he let the car drift onto the oncoming lane at the very moment a Ford Fiesta was coming the other way. The Fiesta motorist took frantic avoiding action causing his car to skid headlong towards a pair of hapless motorcyclists who were parked by the side of the road for a freebie air show. The accompanying screeching of rubber and dust kicked up by the tyres must have given them a very nasty brown trouser moment. Their sphincters wouldn’t even have had time to pucker up. These were the kind of skid marks they hadn’t anticipated! The rest of the trip went peacefully enough though.